Students across much of New Brunswick were sent home from school early or worked from home on Tuesday as the heatwave continued for a second day. But, according to the N.B. Teachers Association, teachers were expected to stay at work.
“Frankly this just defies logic,” said NB Teachers Association president Rick Cuming.
Cuming said he’s been fielding complaints from teachers who say their classrooms have been sweltering hot.
“Sending students home indicates that it is not a safe learning environment which means it is not a safe working environment either,” he said.
Cuming says that many schools are not equipped with proper ventilation and cooling systems.
And, according to Education Minister Dominic Cardy, fans are not permitted in any Department of Education offices due to COVID-19.
“We don’t have any in our building and there are not any allowed in any of the school or district offices,” said Cardy.
Cardy said other government employees were working under similar conditions with no air conditioning, while others were working outside in the heat. He said the decision to send students home was to protect the more vulnerable population.
“The hope there was that it would give teachers less reason to have to move around and more opportunities to be able to have their masks off and I certainly hope that was achieved despite the fact that I know they were still frustrated by what they had to go through the last couple of days,” he said.
Cardy said the department is looking at developing a formal policy in regards to how it will handle extreme heat situations in the future and is evaluating school ventilation and air conditioning systems.
Cuming said the association met with Department of Education officials, but that their concerns are not being heard.
“I have heard from many teachers that really don’t feel like their needs have been respected in any way shape or form,” he said, adding that teachers are already exhausted and stressed working through the pandemic.
“We are certainly told that their mental health was a priority and they are not feeling that right now that is for sure,” said Cuming.
School ventilation is just one of many critical issues that must be addressed going forward as the province recovers from the pandemic according to Cuming.
Former Moncton teacher Heather McDonald said that teachers have already been forced to adjust and work outside of their comfort zone all year due to changing COVID-19 provincial protocols.
“Now they are having to deal with extreme heat and still hearing that what they are doing is not good enough,” McDonald said.
She added that expecting teachers to work in such conditions is unhealthy.